As our first term comes to a close, I want to take a moment to reflect on everything we have accomplished together — and the enormity of the threats we faced.
We live in truly unprecedented times. I was sworn into office during the longest-running government shutdown in American history — one that caused furloughs for thousands of government workers and forced many more to go without basic government services. That same year, we faced a humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. And the House had the solemn responsibility of impeaching the sitting president who solicited foreign interference to help with his own re-election bid. Weeks after that, the nation nearly went to war with Iran.
2020 was no calmer. A mishandled global pandemic has impacted our whole nation, taking hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of jobs. In our own district, George Floyd died in police custody in broad daylight, leading to a long overdue racial justice reckoning across the country.
Many of these crises are ongoing, and it will take decades to undo the damage of the last four years. But despite the enormity of the challenges we face, I remain deeply optimistic about the progress we have made and our ability to make change.
In the face of constant obstacles and vilification, our leaders have not cowered. We have shown up to work and taken on all these challenges — to legislate, to investigate, to litigate — and to represent our community.
Before being sworn in, I was elected as whip of the Progressive Caucus and vice chair of the Medicare for All Caucus. We worked with you to enact community-centered legislation to abolish student debt, provide universal school meals, combat systemic racism, provide housing for all, reorient our foreign policy and end the waste crisis that is fueling climate change. In the face of threats, we have passed over two dozen bills and amendments, more than 94% of the freshman class.
My MEALS Act, a critical bill to provide 22 million kids with federally subsidized school lunches during the coronavirus pandemic, was signed into law as part of Families First Coronavirus Response Act. For someone like me, who experienced the pangs of hunger as a young girl, child hunger is personal. This legislation provided USDA grant waivers to ensure our students are fed.
The first bill passed by the House in the new Congress was the For the People Act, which was the most sweeping democracy reform package in a generation. The final bill included the PAUL Act, a bill I authored to end the culture of corruption by mandating more accountability and transparency for those lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.
In the House, we introduced and passed bold pieces of legislation including the CARES Act to provide hazard pay for front-line workers, relief for those facing eviction, and relief for state and local governments. As we speak we continue to fight to get more relief to Minnesotans, and I am prepared to work with the Biden-Harris administration to provide badly needed relief to the American people.
In the wake of George Floyd's death, people across the country and around the globe stood in solidarity to demand meaningful change in policing. I co-sponsored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and introduced a series of bills to create stronger accountability for law enforcement, protect protesters, limit the president's ability to deploy military forces domestically, and help communities rebuild.
Systemic racism has plagued all aspects of being Black in Minnesota. In order to tackle the inherent inequities in our education system, I co-led the End Pushout Act to end discrimination and unfair punishment against Black students. I also co-sponsored H.R. 40, to investigate the ongoing harm of slavery and segregation and make a formal proposal for reparations for African Americans. In Congress, I will keep championing policies that address the systemic injustices embedded within our criminal justice, education and economic systems until we see lasting reform. I will not let our cries for change continue to echo unanswered.
We have also secured other major victories for Minnesotans — including protections for our Liberian American community from deportation, securing $13.5 million in Community Development Block Grants to help Minneapolis rebuild from the unrest after George Floyd's death, and bringing home over $1.75 billion to our community in the form of federal grant money. My team and I have helped with over 700 constituent cases — ranging from Social Security to veterans to immigration issues.
The enormity of these crises we faced required us to think differently, to do things in a different way, to abandon the status quo and to expand the role of what it means to be a legislator in times of crisis. But I believe it has made me a stronger representative for Minnesotans.
This is just the beginning; I will continue fighting for the Fifth District with co-governance and justice at the center — every day. To build a more equitable Minnesota and America that uplifts one another so we collectively benefit. That's the type of leadership I will continue to bring to the People's House.
Let's get to work.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, represents Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District.
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