The Working Families Party announced Thursday that Rep. Jamaal Bowman will deliver a progressive response to President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress next week—a departure from tradition aimed at giving voice to the millions of Americans who want to push the president to fight harder for working people and the common good.
The WFP has in recent years selected lawmakers to respond to former President Donald Trump’s addresses, but has not previously offered rebuttals to Democratic presidents. Bowman’s response will be aimed at praising Biden for strides he’s made in representing progressives’ policy priorities, while also pushing him to go further.
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“The worst thing we could do in a moment like this, where we feel like we have momentum, is to slow down—to misread the moment and think we can sit back now,” Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party (WFP), told NBC News. “He laid out this agenda to be big and bold, and we’re saying, ‘Game on.'”
Bowman plans to “offer a bold, progressive vision for how we will deliver jobs and care to the American people and make sure everyone who calls this country home can thrive,” the WFP said on social media.
Since Biden took office, progressives have credited him for offering his public support for doing away with the filibuster; giving an unequivocal endorsing the rights of workers to organize; and nominating left-leaning political appointees such as Jessica Rosenworcel to lead the Federal Communications Commission and Deb Haaland to serve as interior secretary.
Progressives, however, have also expressed frustration with Biden’s insufficient goal of cutting fossil fuels by only 50% by the end of this decade and the infrastructure plan he unveiled last month that they say does not go nearly far enough.
Bowman himself recently demanded the Biden administration improve the Supplemental Security Income program for elderly Americans and people with disabilities, and as vice chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, he denounced the White House for requiring standardized testing during the pandemic.
“The worst thing we could do in a moment like this, where we feel like we have momentum, is to slow down—to misread the moment and think we can sit back now.”
—Maurice Mitchell, WFP
“It’s a balancing act,” Bowman told NBC. “He’s already done a lot that I love. And he’s going to say a lot of things that I like, as well. But if we relent, it doesn’t mean that what’s been going on so far is going to continue. It’s important for us as progressives to continue to push and continue to organize.”
On Twitter, the freshman representative—who defeated 16-term Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) last year after running on a platform focused on passing a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and free college tuition—said he was “honored” to respond to the president’s upcoming address, while fellow progressive Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) offered his support.
“Let’s go!” tweeted Bowman.