OPINION — One hundred days ago, I stood with my fellow House Democrats and swore the oath of office. We raised our right hands and promised to uphold the Constitution in the midst of a needless 35 day government shutdown.
Throughout that tumultuous six-week period and the months following, House Democrats remained intensely focused on delivering a better life for all Americans — urban, suburban and rural — through our For The People populist agenda.
In our first 100 days, House Democrats passed a once-in-a-generation democracy reform bill designed to clean up corruption in Washington and return our government to everyday Americans. We advanced critical gun violence prevention measures and passed legislation to put more money in the pockets of American families by ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work. We are doing everything in our power to protect lifesaving access to affordable healthcare coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions, senior citizens and our most vulnerable.
And we’re just getting started.
In the next 100 days, we will embrace this remarkable moment in our nation’s history. Our progressive populist economic agenda — to drive down prescription drug prices and create 16 million good-paying jobs through a real infrastructure plan aligns completely with what Americans expect from this Congress.
The principles in our For the People agenda are supported by the vast majority of working families across this nation — regardless of party affiliation. These beliefs are popular in blue and in red districts, with business and with organized labor. Even the President has acknowledged the importance of getting these items done.
We will act decisively to both restore accountability and reinforce the people’s faith in their government after years of gridlock, misguided partisanship and inaction.
I remain convinced that House Democrats are most successful when we keep our focus on a populist economic agenda grounded in kitchen-table pocket-book issues.
An American problem
In an era of divided government, we must look to get things done is a bipartisan way. Passage of historic criminal justice reform legislation in the last Congress is a seminal example of that opportunity. We concluded that over-criminalization in this country is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem, it’s an American problem. That is why we came together to pass the First Step Act, striking a bipartisan blow against the mass incarceration epidemic.
On criminal justice reform, we assembled a coalition of the unusual suspects on the left and on the right to get it done. A similar opportunity presents itself with respect to getting prescription drug costs under control.
In cities, suburbs and rural communities throughout America, family pocketbooks are under relentless assault due to the sky-high price of lifesaving prescription drugs. The price of insulin, for example, doubled between 2012 and 2016, according to the Health Care Cost Institute. This unmistakable illustration of excess greed presents a grave problem for the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from diabetes or prediabetes. For some companies, this price gouging cannot be explained as an issue of profitability or the need to sustain resources for research and development. It’s about unbridled rapacity.
The people want action and that is what we must deliver. An overwhelming majority of Americans want the government to negotiate with drug companies to secure lower prices and want Congress to make it easier for generic drugs to come to market. The people are with us. The facts are with us. We now must act surgically and decisively to drive down lower healthcare costs — as we promised.
But we shouldn’t stop there.
A clear and present danger
Our nation’s crumbling bridges, roads, tunnels and mass transportation system are a clear and present danger to public safety. In some parts of the country, access to clean drinking water has tragically become a privilege, not a right. Too many of our children in urban and rural America have been further left behind without sufficient access to broadband Internet and the upward mobility provided by 21st Century innovation.
That is why an overwhelming majority of people in red and blue states support massive infrastructure investment. In the next few months, House Democrats will put forward a shovel-ready infrastructure plan that will provide millions of good-paying jobs for hardworking people throughout our great nation.
Our time is now. We must continue to remain unified, focused and courageous in our crusade to improve the lives of everyday Americans.
As a late-great urban poet once said, “stay far from timid, only make moves when your heart’s in it and live the phrase ‘sky’s the limit.’”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. He represents New York’s 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens. He’s a member of the House Judiciary Committee and House Budget Committee.