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Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib to deliver response to Biden’s State of the Union address

The speech by the Michigan congresswoman is a rare move by a member of the president’s party

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) speaks with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 1. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) will deliver a response to President Biden’s State of the Union address next week on behalf of the progressive Working Families Party group, in a rare instance of a formal response by a member of the president’s own party.

Tlaib’s speech, first reported by Politico, is expected to be a call for her fellow Democrats — particularly party members who have blocked Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending proposals, formerly known as the “Build Back Better” plan — to act with greater urgency while they hold the majority in the House and Senate.

“I am especially excited to elevate the voices of the working-class residents in my district and across the nation,” Tlaib said in a statement. “It should not be this hard to deliver on health care, climate, housing, child care, safety, voting rights, clean water and so much more. … Our communities deserve for us to act now.”

Tlaib will note that “Republicans and a handful of corporate Democrats are standing in the way of Biden’s agenda,” but is not planning to call out any members of Congress by name, according to a person familiar with the remarks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss them in advance. The speech is intended to show that progressives support and will continue to fight for Biden’s agenda, the person said.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will deliver the GOP’s formal rebuttal to Biden’s speech next Tuesday. In a statement this week, Reynolds accused the Biden administration of “governing from the far-left” and stifling “free speech, free thought and economic freedom.”

Tlaib’s speech will be the fifth time the Working Families Party has given a formal response to a president’s address before a joint session of Congress. The group’s responses to previous State of the Union addresses were given by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) in 2020, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in 2019 and former representative Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) in 2018. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) delivered a formal response for the group to Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress last year.

Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, praised Tlaib as “fearless.”

“Obstructionist Republicans and a handful of corporate Democrats have ground Washington to a standstill while child poverty spikes and costs continue to rise for housing, healthcare, and childcare,” Mitchell said in a statement. “It doesn’t have to be this way. Rashida will articulate a progressive vision for how we can meet the basic needs of the American people, and ensure all of us can thrive.”

The State of the Union address on March 1 will be a scaled-down affair, a sign of ongoing precautions being taken because of the pandemic. All members of Congress but no guests are invited, and all attendees must report a negative PCR coronavirus test within one day before the speech, remain socially distanced and wear an approved KN95 or N95 face mask while in the U.S. Capitol.

The speech will be Biden’s first State of the Union address since he was elected. Last April, Biden addressed a joint session of Congress in an event that was even more restricted, because of pandemic precautions and security concerns after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.