Education and Labor
A quality public education is a powerful force for economic and social mobility. As Chair of the Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, I am working to expand opportunities for people of all backgrounds. We must close the equity gap for students of color, who continue to face disparate outcomes in our public education system.
The Trump administration has been undermining, rather than protecting, the civil rights of students and workers. I take seriously the obligation of Congress to advance equity, hold institutions accountable, and provide meaningful oversight of the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, and the Trump administration. I will fight for all students and workers so they can learn and work in safe, inclusive, and welcoming environments.
All Americans should be free from discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I have long advocated for LGBTQ rights. I challenged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reinstate protections for transgender students, and I’m leading the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act, which would update the Older Americans Act to strengthen safeguards for LGBT elders.
I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Equality Act, H.R. 5, to amend our civil rights laws to clarify that prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex includes prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Elections and Access to Voting
The right to vote is the core of our democracy, and it is critical that all Americans who qualify to vote have the opportunity to make their voices heard at the polls. For too long our nation did not allow minorities to vote; even after that right was afforded to all Americans, many jurisdictions engaged in shameful practices that effectively made it impossible for many citizens to exercise their rights.
In the 1960’s, the Voting Rights Act gave all citizens equal access to our election process, regardless of race. In the 1970’s, The Federal Election Campaign Act brought a new era of transparency and accountability in campaign finance, and thirty years later Congress passed the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act to rid the system of unchecked corporate soft-money.
But the right of all citizens to fully participate in our democracy is under threat in ways we haven’t seen since the civil rights and post-Watergate eras. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision undermined that intent. There is no question that Citizens United has harmed our democracy, and it must be overturned. The Supreme Court further undermined voting rights by overturning key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, making it easier for states and localities to implement discriminatory practices that block access to the ballot box.
Voter suppression efforts and voter identification laws often restrict access for minority, military, disabled, and low-income voters, as well as seniors and college students. I am also deeply concerned about potential foreign interference in elections.
I am a strong supporter of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which addresses campaign finance reform, voting rights, election security, accountability for government officials, and more. It includes many of the voting provisions that Oregonians have already adopted and appreciate, helping states across the country follow Oregon’s lead by expanding automatic voter registration, online registration, having paper ballots, and vote-by-mail to make it easier for millions of people to exercise their right to vote.
Access to Justice
Our democracy relies on an accessible and effective justice system to adjudicate rights and wrongs. When I was in law school, I helped low-income families access quality legal advice through Legal Aid. More than 60 million Americans qualify for legal assistance programs, and these attorneys assist the most vulnerable in our society, including military veterans seeking disability benefits, women seeking protection from their abusers, and families facing unlawful evictions. I have fought hard for full funding for Legal Aid, and I oppose efforts to eliminate funding for these vital programs.
More on Civil Rights
NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad told a House panel last week that the agency has already made history on the hiring front this year, with women now occupying half of all the assistant administrator jobs. At last week’s virtual hearing before the Subcommittee on Environment, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) told Spinrad that diversifying the workforce would go a long way in helping NOAA address the issue, particularly with women assigned to research vessels. “It’s getting women in the field, but also keeping them there,” she said.
Time is running out to make long-overdue investments in our country’s growing community of LGBTQ+ elders, who have spent their lives breaking barriers and blazing the path toward equality for the generations who follow. In our roles as a member of Congress who is passionate about addressing the needs of older LGBTQ+ Americans, and as the CEO of the nation's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ older people, we know this moment is a rare opportunity.
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who represents Oregon's 1st Congressional District, shared a thread on Twitter, recalling that she had visited New York just days before the attack and had taken a photo of her children in front of the Twin Towers. She said, "As we reflect on this anniversary, let us recommit to doing what makes our communities stronger – engaging in daily acts of kindness, spending time with loved ones, and creating a welcoming place for all.”
Home care workers and consumers shared their daily lives with members of Congress to urge them to support a $400 billion investment in care that would make it easier for seniors and people with disabilities to get the care they need, and create good, union jobs for care workers. In Oregon, SEIU 503 members Gloria Arroyo Martínez and José Arroyo welcomed Rep. Suzanne Bonamici as they spent a day caring for their 31-year-old son Oscar. "Families like ours rely on care. That's why I'm asking you to fight for good union home care jobs," said Gloria.
Oregon senators and representatives are asking U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate “extremist groups” following violent clashes between protesters last month in Portland. In a letter dated Aug. 30, Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate “interstate criminal activity and coordination between extremist groups across state lines with the intent to commit acts of violence in connection with recurring violent altercations in Portland.”
US Rep. Suzanne Bonamici joined those who condemned the recent actions by the school board, issuing a statement on August 26. “Students need a welcoming and safe school environment, and all school leaders should strive every day to make sure students know they are valued and respected,” she wrote. “The Newberg school board’s move to ban Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ pride symbols in schools is antithetical to this bedrock value.”
"The principle of freedom of speech does not preclude the Proud Boys and other right-wing extremist groups from espousing hateful, repugnant ideologies," reads the letter, signed by Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer. "However, the Constitution does not provide protection for the criminal behavior that we have seen in Portland such as assault, firearms violations, potential hate crimes, and more—some of which may rise to the level of federal offenses."
First Congressional District Rep. Suzanne Bonamici joined those who have condemned the recent actions by the school board, issuing a statement on Thursday. "Students need a welcoming and safe school environment, and all school leaders should strive every day to make sure students know they are valued and respected," she wrote. "The Newberg school board's move to ban Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ pride symbols in schools is antithetical to this bedrock value. "In my conversations with community members, I have heard the heartache and profound concern many of us share about this decision.