When President Joe Biden appears before Congress on March 1, he should do so not as a politician with a grand national agenda — but as a focused commander-in-chief leading our nation in a fight against the greatest health challenges. and economics with which we have been confronted. in decades.
The president delivered his first speech to Congress less than 100 days into his presidency. Looking to a future with the pandemic in the rearview mirror, he outlined his vision for next year. Sadly, a year later, our nation is still reflecting and finding its way to a new normal in the age of COVID-19. And, because of that, we find ourselves in a moment that demands a frame with laser focus.
It’s true that America’s overall economic growth grew at a record pace last year. Unemployment was 3.9% at the end of last year and wages are rising for many. But until Americans’ lives return to something close to normal, it will be nearly impossible for them to hear, really hear, what’s going well.
My constituents are exhausted and frustrated. They are always doing their best to avoid the latest COVID variant. Gas prices and grocery costs are on the rise, and school closures have left parents dealing with uncertainty for months. It has been difficult for many people to access reliable testing for COVID-19. Many small businesses are struggling to survive, more than two years since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the United States. Crime is on the rise, even in the suburbs.
We need to address these issues that impact everyday life today – and every day until life gets closer to something resembling normal. Simply put, the American people deserve special attention from elected officials on the public health, public safety, and economic impact of COVID.
Mr. President, outline the plans to keep our children in school, to grow the economy, to fix supply chains and overcome staffing shortages. Detailed plans that will reduce costs for working families, expand testing in all communities and help small businesses stay afloat. My constituents need to be reassured that the nation is making the right investments to ensure that we are not caught off guard if, and when, the next variant emerges.
We in Congress must come together and enact legislation designed to fight inflation, including holding companies that are using the pandemic to hold consumers to account.
We need to address our country’s supply chain issues, which have been simmering for decades and accelerated by the pandemic, by working to make the America Competes Act law and increasing production of vital goods here in the United States. United.
We need to cut taxes for the smallest businesses that have suffered the most from the economic impact of COVID and pass a targeted relief package that allows small businesses to apply for much-needed federal assistance.
We must recognize the increase in crime in our communities and work to support law enforcement as well as address the mental health and addictions crises that exacerbate these issues. We also need to enact common-sense reforms, such as banning chokeholds and restricting the use of no-knock warrants.
We need to focus on reducing the cost of health care and prescription drugs. For too many Americans, too much of their hard-earned income goes directly to the bottom line of drug companies.
Today and after the President finishes addressing the Joint Session on March 1, we as lawmakers must focus on the disruptions this pandemic has brought to daily life and help us find our new normal. And that means all of us – Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
The issues we face are not partisan issues. These are American problems – and the only way America can win is to tackle them, focused, together.
Angie Craig, a Democrat, represents Minnesota’s second congressional district in the United States House.