On Tuesday, Rep. Colin Allred delivered the Congressional Black Caucus response to the State of the Union, marking the first time the Caucus has offered an official response to the event. The speech was made shortly after President Joe Biden gave the first State of the Union Address of his presidency (Biden previously addressed a joint session of Congress in 2021).
“On November 3rd, 2020, despite a global pandemic and rampant voter suppression, the American people made their voices heard,” said Allred at the beginning of his speech. “We decided on a new direction, to turn the page on the politics of division and chaos and hate.”
Although State of the Union responses are typically made by the opposition party, Allred’s response was supportive of the Biden administration and its agenda. “Tonight we witnessed a president working to build a better America here at home and dedicated to promoting peace and stability abroad,” said Allred. “That was made clear in President Biden’s response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine.”
Indeed, Ukraine was a major issue in Biden’s State of the Union, with the president spending more than 10 minutes on the subject at the beginning of his speech. Russia invaded Ukraine less than a week ago, with the Biden administration responding by enacting sanctions against Russia and sending additional weapons to the Ukrainians.
Allred, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was in Ukraine prior to the invasion as part of a congressional delegation. “I saw the faces of some of the same children we now see fleeing for their lives,” said Allred. “To the people of Ukraine, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus say that we stand with you in your fight against a murderous dictator trying to destroy your democracy.”
Allred also touted achievements made by Congress and the Biden administration, including the bipartisan infrastructure law. “The Black Caucus was instrumental in getting this done and our chairwoman, Congresswoman, Joyce Beatty deserves tremendous credit,” said Allred. “Not a week goes by where I’m not announcing significant investments in mass transit, electric vehicle infrastructure, roads and bridge repair, and airport expansions in my home of Dallas.” Allred added that the infrastructure law would combat economic and racial disparities such as the digital divide and inequitable transportation infrastructure.
Nonetheless, Allred noted that there was work to be done and said the Black Caucus was committed to passing Biden’s unity agenda, which includes lowering the cost of prescription drugs and childcare.
The right to vote was the final major topic of Allred’s speech. “As a former voting rights attorney, I’ve never seen anything like what we’re seeing now, the blatant attacks on Americans’ right to vote,” said Allred. He told the story of Pam Gaskin, a Texas woman who voted by mail for years but recently had her application rejected because of the Texas voter suppression law. “In 2022, no one should find themselves in a situation like Ms. Gaskin. Voting should be easy and accessible for every eligible voter, period.” Allred urged the Senate to pass the John Lewis Freedom to Vote Act, which would establish national standards around voting by mail, early voting, and voter registration.
There were several other responses to the State of the Union. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered the Republican response while Rep. Rashid Tlaib (D-MI) gave a response on behalf of the Working Families Party. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) delivered a bipartisan response.
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